If you’re a fan of the show Mad Men or have seen the opening, then you’ve seen a motion graphic.
Motion graphics were all the rage in the 1960s (hence the look for the Mad Men series set in the advertising field of the 1960s) and were popular in movies, TV show openings and commercials.
You’ve seen plenty of them, now that you’ve put the graphic with the term. They’re once again on TV, commercials, movies, web sites and any other visual medium. Is it that they are retro? Do they bring back a feeling of simpler days? Are they just visually pleasing and that’s why they have been discovered again? Some people will say that they never went away and that’s true but they are hot again and a specialized talent is needed to create them.
If you’ve wondered how it’s done and how you can get involved in creating these projects, here are examples and hints from some experts in the field. “That’s animation,” you might say. Well, yes… and no. Motion graphics are the use of video, graphics and animation technology to create the illusion of motion. MG is usually assigned as a descriptor for movie or TV openings, combined with a theme song or score, even if all the images may just be illustrations as with the cool 1966 Batman opening.
One cannot speak of motion graphics without mentioning Saul Bass (May 8, 1920 – April 25, 1996). Saul was a graphic designer and filmmaker, perhaps best known for his design of film posters and motion picture title sequences. I had the pleasure of speaking with Saul on several occasions but didn’t actually know it was him. He just seemed like a very pleasant older man who chatted with me about our birthplace, the Bronx, New York, life, the Yankees and other non-industry stuff. He never introduced himself but would always recognize me at industry social events and it wasn’t until another older gentleman commented on how “Saul had taken a liking to (me),” that I realized I had some brushes with greatness. I had never called him by name, choosing to just say “hey!” or “how ya doin’!” every time we met. I asked this gentleman what Saul’s last name was and he stood dumbfounded. He said with astonishment, “you didn’t know you’ve been buddy-buddy with Saul Bass?”
I guess that proves once again that the bigger they are, the less they need to talk about how great they are. Unfortunately, I never saw Saul again as he passed away a short time later. I probably would have been a bit tongue-tied knowing I was speaking with THE Saul Bass. Perhaps my not caring is what he liked about shooting the breeze with me.
Saul worked for some of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. Amongst his most famous title sequences are the animated paper cut-out of a heroin addict’s arm for Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm, the credits racing up and down what eventually becomes a high-angle shot of the United Nations building in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, and the disjointed text that races together and apart in Psycho. Today there are seemingly endless resources for learning anything online, Lynda, Video Copilot, YouTube, Adobe’s training tutorials, etc. Now most Art schools and college art programs are offering courses in motion graphics along with specialty schools like Video Symphony, Gnomon, DAVE school and the Mitt Romney endorsed, Full Sail.
It seems like many of these specialty schools are pumping out a lot of kids into a somewhat current dismal job market though. I’ve worked with a lot of these kids in my most recent job and I’ve heard that some of their reported graduate employment numbers maybe cooked somewhat, or at least their graduates are not all being employed in the professions they trained for.
I’m finding now, much of the entry-level production work is now being out sourced to India and Asia like everything else in the US.
Motion graphics can be a very general term to some, encompassing...